For Black Women, Men Do Leave by Tommy Ates
"Where are all the good, black men?" They are not gone. They just don't feel like they need to be there.
As people may know, black people are not monolithic in perception or attitude about their social conditions, or the factors that have created our unique place in society. But, among black men and women, there are different perceptions on how each person regards the importance of black culture and identity. With all social processes, this identity forms in childhood. And this difference becomes glaringly obvious (as adults) in their views of interracial dating.
In this area, the roles and thoughts of "crossing the color line" couldn't be more profound. Not only do black men date more out of their race (nearly 4 to 1), in modern times, it has become the function of the black women to preserve the 'torch' of black culture. And this pathology has enormous implications on the future of black identity (and cultural direction).
First of all, there is no doubt about the drastic effects of racism and ethnic stereotypes that have plagued African-Americans (particularly black men) during slavery and the Jim Crow era. As a response, many black parents have maintained a protective position around their children (particularly boys), trying to instill in them as many effective social stances that will serve them well in the larger white community.
That being said, against the backdrop of sobering statistics on black men incarcerated or in the criminal justice system, the lagging 'sadness' of the prospects for black males means that (as children), there is a tendency for black boys to be declared the 'victim' before they are out of the cradle. In terms of the black male's view of interracial dating, any way out of the 'victim hood' stance can be seen as an improvement, especially if they can benefit from the outside connection (the spouse).
For black men, the scenario of interracial dating also stems from the fear of low expectations prompted by black community, ironically, as self-defense mechanism to defend against disappointment and blatant discrimination. The "nothing to lose" pathos shown in modern hip-hop videos and movie images of black men "out to get mine" quite clearly illustrates the anticipation of low expectations in life.
Viewed from the lens of hip-hop, the ultra-masculine stereotypes of black men are denigrating, yet strangely attractive to white youth (females included). The swarthiness and candor of the jive-talking black man can be very attractive to other women who want to know what the "other side is like." Black females, on the other hand, (like most western women) continue their focus around the home, particularly in roles caring for younger siblings or extended family.
As this notion of 'familiar responsibility' is strong amongst all women, African-American females (in particular) have had more than their share of the housework and preserving the integrity of the home. Up to the late-twentieth century, as the inner cities crumbled and unemployment began to soar, the financial pressures began to wear down the black family, as through divorce and even marriage (because of the welfare system) became a liability in receiving an living income. The end result: the number of single, female households grew to more than 70% of black families, developing into a de-facto matriarchal system (wrongly associated with the black underclass).
Thus, for many African-American women, it is they who are the 'black family' battling against the white patriarchy.
In terms of interracial relationships, marriage outside of their race (though slightly neutered in discrimination) can be harder on the female psyche because of the spectre of children seen by black society as 'given up' their blackness by having a non-black father, whose male influence on the children will not be 'black' - though they are both black and white.
With African-American women, the ghetto stereotypes have left them looking saucy, demanding, and money-driven (not the ideal woman), leaving some women to carry feelings of deliberate isolation as if they were a booby trap (no pun intended). In either case, the black male benefits by being the only other type of person who can truly understand what she (the black female) is going through.
With interracial dating, it is not disturbing that it is occurring; on the contrary, as societies merge (via improved social conditions), it is a 'natural' process of integration, leading to new social structures. Racial and culturing mixing has happened before and will again.
However, what is disturbing is the rate of which black men are leaving the black family not due to crime, the criminal justice system, or poverty, but by social nuances (generated by our own culture) which unknowingly open the door for men to 'leave,' but often leave a guilty conscience to the embattled 'family' champion, the black female.
Add the fact that the African-American male/female ratio is slightly to the advantage of men, and this fact has caused some black men to become arrogant, using the knowledge as a weapon, feeling black women will compete for them, and, at times, even put up with extra-marital dalliances in order to 'preserve the family.'
With all the self-help books, seminars, talk show topics, and films which explore this topic of interracial dating, there is a slow realization that liberation is not just from the outside, but from within. And for black men to really love black women, they must be willing to let them go. No guilt; no hurt; no worries.
It is time for the black female to seek her own liberation. Time to see what life has to offer and where a rainbow of luck and courage can take you. Don't worry about us; we will be fine (and there with you). Explore your world. We, too, can grow up through familiar responsibility. And we will make you proud.*
(*Note: This is not a gift; it's a promise.)
Tommy Ates is a featured columnist of Left Is Right(http://www.leftisright.net), appearing in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Buffalo News, The Wichita Eagle, and The Macon Telegraph, among others. Mr. Ates can be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com
Thursday, May 2, 2002